Caerphilly 20-22 Hartridge
Saturday April 22, Constructaquote Stadium
Caerphilly suffered just their second defeat of the season against a well-drilled Hartridge team at a sun-soaked Constructaquote Stadium on Saturday April 22.
Having led for most of the match, a try deep into injury-time from the league leaders sunk Caerphilly to dent their promotion hopes, though the Castlemen still have two games in hand against Oakdale in second.
Hartridge exerted early pressure on the hosts, and laid siege to the try-line. The defence held firm until the 15th minute, when a well-worked lineout saw the Hearts cross for a seven point lead.
Once Caerphilly found their pace, they spent the next quarter attacking the Hartridge line, and a series of penalties gave outside-half Matthew Hurley the chance to reduce the deficit.
The visitors lost a man to the sin-bin for repeated infringements, and after Hurley’s kick to the corner, lineout ball was passed through the backs, where centre Matthew Nuthall exploited vacant space to cross just after the half-hour mark.
Hurley’s conversion made it 10-7.
After referee Peter Mortimer had to stop the match to clear Hartridge supporters from the field, Caerphilly scored again from a set-piece.
A lineout inside the 22-metre area saw Hurley burst under the posts from ten-metres out. He dusted himself off to convert and give the Castlemen a ten point lead at half-time.
Despite their one-man reduction, Hartridge were first on the scoresheet after the interval. Hurley decided against an easy penalty three minutes into the second half, and kicked to the corner. Caerphilly overcooked the throw-in, and the Hearts worked the ball up to the half-way line for their left-winger to run the rest of the way into the corner. The gap was narrowed to five points.
Despite applying persistent pressure, the home side failed to ground the ball over the line on several occasions. Hurley wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice and accepted a shot at goal on 55 minutes, increasing the lead to 20-12.
Pressure translated into mistakes for the hosts, and Caerphilly were punished once again when Hartridge crossed with ten minutes to go and the scores poised at 20-17.
Playing with new-found vigour, the Newport side went in search of the winner. The clock reached 80 minutes, and with Caerphilly in control of the ball, Nuthall skewed a clearance down-field, and gave the Hartridge full-back the chance to attack. After a ruck on the half-way line, some clever play from the visiting inside centre saw him sprint down the touch-line to give the visitors a two-point lead, and spark a pitch invasion by the Hearts’ faithful.
After the restart, there were strong shouts for a deliberate knock-on into touch, but the referee signalled for a lineout to Caerphilly.
Moving the ball from left to right, play was halted just short of the line before full-back Tom Candy took the direct route to the line and spilt the ball ten metres out, signalling the end of the match at 20-22.
Caerphilly next face Fleur-de-Lys on Saturday April 29, before their game in hand against promotion rivals Oakdale on Wednesday May 3.
• Match report at photography by Mark Tamplin of Caerphilly RFC.